Raymond Gesteland on Recombinant DNA Research Controversy
  Raymond Gesteland     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

I think the people in trenches, in one sense, treated it rather lightly. It seemed silly, all this worry. I think that it was hard to take the fears that were being painted nearly as serious as they were being described. The biggest fear, I think, was what happened—that the research would be shutdown, and that we’d really pay a big price for having raised this issue in a public way like that. On the other hand, I think people, including myself, weren’t completely comfortable with the safety of all this and some concern that these viruses might be more dangerous then we think. I think there was really a mixed feeling of taking part of the argument quite lightly and even making fun of it but yet harboring some question underneath.

I can remember, in the middle of all this, thinking this was some kind of overreaction, but going down to NIH to grow a batch of SO40 hybrid in a P3 facility and putting on suits and gowns. It was a terrible way to have to do science, and people don’t take that precaution with that virus any more, but at that time it was the only way to do it. So it was a funny time.

Raymond Gesteland, biologist, has made progress in describing essential mechanisms for controlled gene expression. His research on recoding provides insight into replication of RNA viruses such as HIV and the genetic code. Gesteland also concentrates on ribosome function and response to mRNA signals.

He received a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. After working at Alfred Tissières Laboratory in Geneva, in 1967, Gesteland arrived at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to work under Jim Watson as Assistant Director for Research.

Gesteland is currently Vice President for Research, Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, and Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah.